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Tufts Crisis Mapping Class » Crisis Mapping, Featured » Ben’s thoughts on crisis mapping

Ben’s thoughts on crisis mapping

My name is Ben, and I am a first-year undergraduate here at Tufts University.

During the summer of 2008, I took on a volunteer opportunity in the city of Mianzhu, near the epicenter of China’s Wenchuan Earthquake. The Wenchuan Earthquake was the 21st deadliest earthquake in known history, measured at 8.0Ms, taking the lives of almost 70,000 people. I arrived with a few friends approximately two months after the initial shock, as a member of the Jiangsu Province relief team, and we were put in charge of interacting with some child survivors at a temporary tent school on an abandoned street in the city.

At the time, I was a high school student attending an expensive international school in the affluent suburbs of Shanghai, the largest and probably one of the most developed cities on the globe. Disaster-stricken Mianzhu was at the opposite end of my world, and my trip there was to change me profoundly.

During my volunteering period, I was able to tour some of the most affected towns and regions. I recall, particularly clearly, of a survivor who told me about how obstructions such as government corruption, and the inability to send the correct types and portions of supplies to the correct places made the disaster-relief effort so much more difficult. “The supplies reached the fringes of the disaster area, and were immediately distributed. Only a small portion of the aid trickled down to the victims in the center of the quake zone, and people didn’t know we needed it until it was too late.”

When I found out about crisis mapping through Tufts’ ExCollege website, and when it began to dawn on me how this new discipline and its technologies could have helped those people, it goes without saying that I was delighted. Thus, I hope that this class could introduce me to these essential tools that would allow me, should tragedy strike in the future, to I play a part in making things better, even if by just a little bit.

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